Seattle to Mount Rainier and Cascade National Park
Washington Road Trip
The Pacific Northwest is home to one of the most diverse landscapes in the United States. From North America’s only rainforest to towering glaciated peaks, an enchanting, craggy coastline, and massive pines, the PNW has everything you need for the adventure of a lifetime. From the city on the Sound in Seattle, you can easily access three national parks within a few short hours: Mount Rainier National Park, Northern Cascades National, and the Olympic National Park. In this 7-day itinerary, we tackle two of Washington’s most pristine national parks, Mount Rainier and Northern Cascades, as well as the charming mountain town of Leavenworth, while traveling from our Escape Vans location in Seattle.
Seattle to Mount Rainier National Park & North Cascades National Park
This 7-day Washington road trip takes campers to North Cascades National Park, where alpine lakes and glaciers dominate the landscape. Next, you’ll travel to the charming mountain town of Leavenworth before heading south to Mount Rainier National Park, where the PNW’s tallest mountain rises over 14,000 feet into the sky.
Travel Time from Seattle to Mount Rainier, Northern Cascades, and Back to Seattle
This itinerary covers 562 miles with 10 hours and 59 minutes of driving. We recommend 7 days for this Washington road trip.
Best Time of Year for a Washington Road Trip through the Mountains Stops
Late spring, summer, and early fall are the best times of year to make this trip. If you travel during the winter or adjacent months, you risk running into severe winter weather in the national parks and heavy rains.
Summer is an excellent time to visit Washington as summers offer up to 16 hours of daylight for adventuring. Read more about traveling in the PNW here.
Preparation for a Washington Road Trip through the Mountains Stops
Adventure Prep: Gear
Rain Gear: When you travel in the PNW, you never know what the weather will do. Come prepared for the rain and sun. Bring a rain jacket, waterproof layers, and plenty of dry clothes.
Sun Protection: Washington may be in the northern reaches of the country, but during the summer, the sun is powerful. Bring sunscreen and a hat for the long summer days.
Layers: The nights and cloudy days in the mountains can be chilly, so bring plenty of layers.
Dispersed camping vs. campsites: Summer is the perfect time to camp in Washington. A van makes dispersed camping easy. You can disperse camp for free on federal and BLM land. There are plenty of apps to help you find a dispersed camping site on your route. If you’re considering booking a campsite, either in a national/state park or a private campsite, make sure you book at least two months before your trip.
Phones & Chargers: Navigation is integral to your trip’s success. Make sure you bring a smartphone or GPS device and a charger.
Printed Maps: You never know when you’re going to lose service in the mountains. Take a printed road map of the region in case you lose service.
Which Camper Van is Best for the Pacific Northwest?
Escape Campervans offers a variety of van models to suit your travel needs, group size, and desired destination. These vans are equipped with all the bells and whistles to provide the ultimate mix of comfort and ease of travel. With a built-in kitchenette, solar panels, and a comfortable queen bed, there’s no better way to hit the road in the Southwest. From our Seattle pickup location, you can choose between spacious Big Sur, Del Mar, and Mavericks models, each can sleep up to 5 people (with a rooftop sleeper). Browse our selection of vans to find the perfect model for your Washington road trip, and make sure it’s stocked with everything you need for an epic adventure.
Washington Road Trip through the Mountains Stops
North Cascades National Park, WA
After picking up your Escape Camper Van at our Seattle location, head north towards North Cascades National Park and watch the landscape around you transform. The park is marked by alpine lakes, snow-capped mountains, and glaciers. It’s bisected by the Ross Lake Recreation Area, which contains three mountain lakes along the Skagit River. The park system offers travelers everything from otherworldly hikes and climbs to dips in ice-cold alpine lakes and over 300 glaciers. North Cascades National Park is the most glaciated area in the United States outside of Alaska. As a national park, North Cascades offers an abundance of camping opportunities, from dispersed camping on federal land to park-maintained campgrounds and nearby private campsites. Check out these apps to find dispersed camping.
Camping in North Cascades National Park
Colonial Creek Campground–State Rte 20, Rockport, WA 98283: Located near the shores of the glistening Diablo Lake, Colonial Creek offers creek-side and forested campgrounds by reservation from May to September.
Goodell Creek Campground– State Rte 20, Marblemount, WA 98267: Located off the North Cascades Highway on the west side of the park, this campground has 19 first-come, first-serve campsites and two large reservable areas for groups.
The Cascade River Retreat is a private campground in Marblemount, WA, along the Cascade River. This campsite is a Native American Homestead offering riverside camping near the park.
Hikes & Adventures in North Cascades National Park
Thornton Lake Trail: This difficult 9-mile out-and-back hike climbs 3,000 feet to one of the park’s most pristine mountain lakes. Thornton Lake Trail is popular as both a day hike and for backpacking. Register with the park if you plan to camp overnight.
Thunder Knob Trail: This 3.4 mile out and back is a moderately easy hike with only 675 feet of elevation gain. At the end of the trail, hikers are rewarded with views of an electric blue alpine lake that has to be seen to be believed.
Desolation Peak Trail Via Ross Lake: In 1965, Jack Kerouac manned the fire tire at Desolation Peak. His time there inspired his novel Desolation Angels. This strenuous trail climbs for over 4,500 feet over 8.7 miles.
Rainy Lake: This 2.0-mile out-and-back is an easy hike that ends with a stunning alpine lake. Enjoy lake views and mid-hike dips on this easy trail.
Visit Stehekin: Stehekin is an isolated community located on the shores of Lake Chelan, the third deepest lake in the United States. There are only 75 permanent residents and no road access.
The Lodge at Stehekin Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s the perfect place to refuel after a long day in the mountains or fuel up before taking a dip in a chilly mountain lake. This casual eatery offers phenomenal views of Lake Chelan.
Stehekin Pastry Company offers fresh pastries and full pies along with their full breakfast and lunch menus. This quaint family-owned bakery has become a staple of the local community.
The Sun Mountain Lodge Restaurant offers a fine dining experience immersed in the natural beauty of the Methow Valley. The Sun Mountain Lodge serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner with an exquisite wine list and a diverse, seasonal menu.
Leavenworth is a small mountain town cradled by Washington’s Cascade Mountains. This tiny town has deep German roots, which are evident in everything from the architecture to the cuisine. Beyond the abundance of Bavarian culture, Leavenworth offers unparalleled access to some of Washington’s most majestic mountains and trails. Leavenworth sits just south of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and near Lake Wenatchee State Park, so there are plenty of camping opportunities both for dispersed camping and reservable campsites. Beyond camping in state and federal forests, there are dozens of private campsite options around town.
Camping in Leavenworth
Lake Wenatchee State Park-21588 WA-207, Leavenworth, WA 98826: Lake Wenatchee State Park offers year-round camping with RV hook-up sites and group tent sites within the state park. Reservations are required. On occasion, same-day reservations are available.
Eight Mile Campground– Icicle Rd, Leavenworth, WA 98826: Eightmile Campground, located along Icicle Creek, sits just outside of town and offers a mix of reservable campsites and first-come, first-serve sites. The campground is located on federal land within the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area.
Earthlight Camping-35 Rivendell Rd, Orondo, WA 98843: Earthlight Camping is a private campground located outside of town that offers campers 8 sites with complete privacy in the Washington wilderness. With campsite views of the Columbia River, this private campsite cannot be beaten.
Leavenworth Hikes & Activities
Colchuck Lake Via Stuart Lake Trail: This arduous hike stretches for nearly 9 miles as part of the Enchantments Trail. The Enchantments is a popular backpacking route with a lottery system for permits that takes hikers 20 miles through the famed Asgard Pass. Hiking to Colchuck Lake gives day hikers a taste of the brutal climb the Enchantments offers, as well as the surreal beauty.
Tour a Vineyard: Eastern and Central Washington produce some of the country’s finest wines. Tour one of the nearby vineyards or visit a downtown tasting room.
Visit Waterfront Park & Blackbird Island: Waterfront Park near Leavenworth is the perfect dose of nature near town. HIke the 2-mile loop, take a dip in the lake, or kayak and paddleboard on a warm summer day.
Icicle Ridge Trail is a moderate 4.8 mile out and back hike that takes hikers up roughly 1700 feet of elevation.
Where to Eat in Leavenworth
Mana serves an elegant farm-to-table dinner menu created by renowned chef Colin Patterson. If you’re looking for a multi-course date night spot, Mana should be at the top of your list.
München Haus is a staple of Leavenworth and the place to go to experience the town’s Bavarian roots. This German-style beer and food haul serves classic Bavarian dishes with the decor to match.
Tumwater Bakery is located in town on a small side street. This bakery offers a wide selection of baked goods as well as full breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They are best known for their pizza.
J5 Coffee is Leavenworth’s go-to coffee shop and breakfast spot, serving baked goods, fresh coffee, and breakfast.
Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier towers 14,410 feet above sea level, rising nearly 10,000 feet taller than any nearby peak. Mount Rainier is heavily glaciated and visible on a clear day for hundreds of miles. You’ll see Ranier when you pick up your van in Seattle on a clear day. While few summit Mt. Rainier, as it is a highly technical multi-day climb, a trip to Washington is not complete without visiting Mount Rainier National Park. Mount Rainier has dozens of options for camping, including reservable sites within the park, dispersed camping, and nearby private campsites.
Camping in Mount Rainier National Park
Cougar Rock Campground Ashford, WA 98304: Cougar Rock is located within the national park, and offers 173 individual sites and 5 group sites, along with picnic tables, fire platforms, flush toilets, and drinkable water. This campground puts you right next to the popular Cedar Falls trail. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Crystal Mountain Resort 33914 Crystal Mountain Blvd, Crystal Mountain, WA 98022- Crystal Mountain is Washington’s largest ski resort located right next to Mount Rainier National Park. Crystal Mountain offers RV sites with unparalleled views of Mt. Rainier.
Mounthaven Resort-38210 SR 706 East Ashford, WA 98304: Located about halfway from the Nisqually Park entrance, Mounthaven Resort offers RV sites, cabins, and tent sites deep in the Washington wilderness. Mounthaven is a great pet-friendly camping option right by the park.
Mineral Lake Lions Den Campground-113 E Front Street, Mineral, WA 98355: Lions Den Campground at Mineral Lake is one of the only waterfront campgrounds near Mount Rainier. Choose from 105 campsites with lake and mountain views.
Best Hikes in Mount Rainier National Park
Skyline Loop Trail is a challenging 5.7-mile loop with unobstructed views of Mount Rainier throughout the hike.
Mount Fremont Lookout Trail gives hikers up close and personal views of Mount Rainier on a moderate 5.7 mile out and back trail. If you’re looking for the best view of Mount Rainier, Mount Fremont Lookout may just be it.
Bench and Snow Lakes Trail is a moderate 2.2-mile out-and-back trail that brings you to a chilly alpine lake with Mount Rainier towering behind.
Naches Peak Loop is an easy 3.5-mile loop that offers spectacular views of the mountain, alpine lakes, and abundant wildflowers.
Where to Eat in Mount Rainier National Park
Pizza Express, located in nearby Elbe, Washington, serves tasty pizza to diners in a refurbished train car. Perfect for post-hike munchies.
Scaleburgers, also located in Elbe, Washington, is a classic burger shack serving delicious burgers and fries out of a side-of-the-road stand.
Packwood Brewing Co serves craft beer with a decadent dining menu, full of seasonal ingredients and local fare.
Why Rent a Camper Van for a Washington Road Trip Through the Mountains?
The PNW is best explored while camping and a campervan allows you to do just that. Taking a Washington Road Trip in an Escape Camper Van allows you to camp where you please with modern conveniences and comforts not found while tent camping. Additionally, a campervan gives you unmatched mobility and versatility to go where you please.
No Need for Electric or Sewer Hookups: Camper vans from Escape Campervans are designed to be self-contained, meaning you don’t need electric or sewer hookups. This level of independence allows you to camp in a wider range of locations, including campgrounds, state parks, and even dispersed camping areas around Washington.
Cozy and Convenient: Escape Campervans are equipped with comfortable sleeping quarters, a compact kitchenette for meal preparation, and all the essential camping gear you need available at your fingertips. This means you can focus on enjoying the fall foliage and the natural beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park without the hassle of setting up tents, finding lodging, or dealing with complex RV systems.
Versatile and Adventure-Ready: Escape Campervans are designed with adventure in mind. They come in various colorful and eye-catching designs, adding a sense of fun to your trip. Plus, they’re well-equipped for outdoor enthusiasts with additional features like solar showers and rooftop tents available as add-ons.
In summary, renting an Escape Campervan for your road trip through Washington offers a more nimble, user-friendly, and affordable way to experience the stunning autumn colors and the park’s natural beauty. It allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience while enjoying the convenience and comfort of a camper van!
Reserve with Escape Campervans for your Washington Road Trip
Armed with the ultimate Washington Road Trip itinerary, you’re ready for the road trip of a lifetime. Head to Escape Campervans to book your van today and take the first step towards an unforgettable travel experience.